A new paper from Adam Bonica of Stanford University, Adam Chilton of the University of Chicago, and Maya Sen of Harvard University combines an analysis of the Federal Election Commission's campaign finance database and the Martindale-Hubbell law directory to generate an interesting look at the politics of American lawyers.
The paper uses a scale of -2 to +2, with -2 being most left-wing and +2 being most right wing. "American lawyers lean to the left of the ideological spectrum," the paper says.
The paper also looks at lawyers in comparison to other professions. Technology firms, newspaper and print media, and academics are even more left wing than lawyers; professionals in banking and finance and medical doctors are more conservative: "the median lawyer is well to the left of the respective medians for accountants; bankers and financial workers; and medical doctors." Says the paper:
The difference between those in the legal profession and those in the banking or finance industry is particularly revealing, as corporate law firms and finance firms tend to be centered in comparable metropolitan areas and perhaps draw from the same underlying pools of potential candidates.
Other results: women lawyers are more liberal than men. "Government lawyers are more liberal than non-government lawyers." Law professors are more liberal than the rest of the attorney population. Of the eight largest legal markets — New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; Washington, D.C.; Chicago, IL; Boston, MA; San Francisco, CA; Atlanta, GA; and Philadelphia, PA — all but Atlanta have a political skew of lawyers to the left.
All of the 14 top law schools in the US News rankings have "have distributions that lean to the left. That is, there are more liberal alumni from those schools than there are conservative alumni. Not only do all of the schools lean to the left, the skew is fairly extreme in several of the schools."
The scholars also looked at law firm size: "The most liberal leaning of the five categories is the first: attorneys who work at one of the 25 largest law firms." There are even political scores listed for individual law firms, and graphics with lists of the "20 most liberal law firms" — among them BuckleySandler, Quinn Emanuel, Morrison and Foerster, and Cleary Gottlieb — and the "20 most conservative law firms" — a list without a lot of household names.
Oil and gas lawyers and merger and acquisition lawyers tend to be more conservative; public defenders, class action lawyers, civil rights lawyers, and entertainment lawyers tend to be more liberal.
It's a pretty interesting piece of research. The authors point out that lawyers not only control the judicial branch of government, but that they are also overrepresented in Congress and among the presidents. The leftward tilt among the press and academia is a common complaint among conservatives. Conservatives sometimes complain about trial lawyers or the tort bar, too. But one doesn't often hear talk about the overall leftward tilt of the legal profession, a trend highlighted by this paper.
Link via Tyler Cowen's Marginal Revolution.